Showing posts with label Savannah. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Savannah. Show all posts

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Favorite Airports: Savannah's Rocks!

If I were giving awards, my 'Airport of the Year Award' would go to. . .(drum roll). . .Savannah!
Well,technically it's the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport.  But by whatever name, it has to be one of the easiest airports to navigate and I love it because it rocks!
Actually the travelers rock, using the wooden rocking chairs provided.  No joke. Wooden rocking chairs. . .in an airport?!  It was a great introduction to the Southern Hospitality that was to follow during our week long stay in Savannah.

Savannah/Hilton Head Airport
Jackie Smith photo, 2010
 Whoever designed the place is to be commended and whoever furnished it is to be complimented.  Between the concourse and check in counters/baggage claim areas, you pass through a large open area designed to look like a southern square, made user-friendly with wooden park benches and rocking chairs.  They even have rocking chairs placed periodically along the concourse. And security was a breeze - no long lines  in the early afternoon when we passed through.

Another favorite airport is Honolulu's. Maybe it is the warm ocean breezes that envelop you as you step out of the Jetway in this open-air terminal or the aloha greeting of hula dancers who often perform in the airport's common area, but it also has a welcoming ambiance.  Its Asian-themed garden, a lush green oasis in the middle of the airport, provides a last-chance stroll through the tropics for those waiting to board flights.

The shops were so enticing when we landed at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport in October that I actually asked to go there early the next morning to make sure I had shopping time prior to boarding our flight to Seattle.  Flower shops sell tulip bulbs in kaleidoscope of colors and quantities and those stores with blue and white porcelain were irresistible. And then. . .while exploring the stores, we discovered the airport's casino. Yes, a real casino, where Joel is already planning to spend his time the next time I go 'shopping'.

All travelers have a supply of airport horror stories. But what about the good airports? Do you have a favorite? Tell us what makes it so.  Are there any that you'd like to put in the 'losers' category?  Tell us about them below:

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Savannah: a Strollin' and Stoppin' Town

I beg to differ with those who told us Savannah was a good walking town.  You don't walk in Savannah - not if you want to savor the full effect of its historic districts - you stroll and you stop, then stroll a bit more and stop again.

Strolling through a Savannah Square
Jackie Smith photo
 My photos -- for that matter even the tourist brochures -- can't capture the magical ambiance that a slow-paced stroll provides of this historic river-front city that was founded in the midst of the Georgia wilderness by British General James Oglethorpe in 1733.

Strolling was also a good way for us to justify some of those hefty, mouth-watering meals we were eating.  We spent hours wandering through the downtown commercial area and adjoining tree-lined neighborhoods. Yet, we didn't even scratch the surface, making it to only half of the 22 remaining (there were 24) historic squares.  These squares, designed originally as gathering places for those whose homes, churches and businesses bordered them, continue to be perfect spots for finding a bench and 'sittin' a spell'.  No two squares are alike aside from their lush flower and foliage beds and the dense canopies of massive Spanish moss draped trees.

Two squares became regular pathways for us and in each we were serenaded daily by street musicians. One flutist played an almost haunting background tune and anther sang to no one in particular as he strummed his guitar. They were always in the exact same spot in the exact same square. 

One evening en route to The Mansion on Forsyth Park for dinner we cut through a square where Santa was greeting folks, cider was being poured  while a baritone sang Christmas tunes to a small gathering of folks. 

Giant oak trees filter sunlight in Savannah's Squares
Jackie Smith photo 2010
From a practical standpoint:  Walking the tree-lined streets of the historic streets could be hazardous to your health as you would be going too fast and trip over the uneven walkways that rise and fall as decades of tree roots dictate. By slowly strolling those same walkways you give yourself time to look at the beauty of the place and not where your next step will take you.

(Note:  If you can't make it to Savannah click the 'historic squares' link for a virtual tour of a couple of them. And if you aren't able to stroll, take one of the many guided tours available - horsedrawn carriages or motorized trolleys will take you on a variety of tours from historic mansions the late night ghost seeking).

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Songs of the South - Savannah-style

There was no end to Savannah's entertainment possibilities: clubs, theatres, special performances, . . .you name it, we had a full menu from which to choose. So many choices and so little time.  Add to that, the musicians entertaining in many restaurants and cocktail lounges . . . some so good that they brought us back for second helpings.

Such was the case with Downie Mosley

Downie Mosely 
 Jackie Smith  photo 2010 
 Mr. Mosley plays piano in Planters Tavern in the basement of The Olde Pink House Restaurant (23 Abercorn St., 912-232-4286) on Reynolds Square. We'd stopped in for an after-dinner drink, having dined Sunday evening in one of the more formal (and very popular, it seemed) upstairs rooms.

Actually, we'd gone to the restaurant in hopes of hearing a singer that Joel's Kirkland barber had raved about, Ms. Cidra Sams. Keith had heard her a few months ago. But Ms Sams was off that night; lucky for us, Mr. Mosley wasn't.

(I am using the courtesy titles in this post that we found were the norm in this city. You always refer to folks by their title and surname - I was 'Mrs. Smith', well, at least when they didn't call me  'darlin' . . .which happened quite often.)

With the tarvern's dark, low-slung ceiling -- the wood floor-board beams of the main floor-- and the taper candles used to illuminate the printed menus I wouldn't have been surprised to see ale being served in tankards. After all we were in a home built by a wealthy planter back in 1773 on land granted by the crown of England.  Back then it was the Habersham House and this bar had been the kitchen, we were told.

But back to Mr. Mosley, who sits at the piano near one of the two enormous fireplaces that anchor each end of the room. He was such a performer and played with such enthusiasm, that he captured the attention of diners and drinkers alike.  His wasn't cocktail lounge background music; he was center stage. And it wasn't the electronically-enhanced set medley of songs, nor did he use sheet music.  You requested a song and he played it.

Downie Mosley and Cidra Sams
Jackie Smith photo 2010
By the time he'd given us a sampling of songs written by Savannah's famous son, Johnny Mercer, we knew we would return the next night - right about the time that Mr. Mosley started playing. (And that night we got to meet Ms. Sams as well!)

(Hint:  Do click the Johnny Mercer link, it will give you a sample of  his music, thanks to a great YouTube posting.) 

Photos on this post are taken by me and you'll need my permission to reuse them.

Monday, December 6, 2010

A Novel Experience: Savannah's "Taxi Writer"

Even the briefest of encounters can produce the richest of travel memories.  Such was the case with a short taxi ride Sunday morning when we moved from the Savannah conference hotel to a small historic hotel tucked away at the corner of Reynolds Square.

Savannah's Taxi Writer - Robert T.S. Mickles, Sr.
When Joel asked our driver if he' watched any football the day before, he replied, "No, I am a writer. I am not into sports."  He then handed me his card which said he was:  Robert T. S. Mickles, Sr., Essence Magazine's best selling author of "Blood Kin, A Savannah Story, Part 1" and "Isaiah's Tear's, Part 2".
In response to all my questions  that his card had prompted, he offered me a large scrapbook (from the front passenger seat). It was filled with newspaper clippings about him, his books, clipped best-seller lists on which his books have appeared and photos of him with notable people. 

"May I take your photo?" I asked, as I exited the cab, adding, "You are famous!"  He laughed as he paused for the photo above, and said, "No, ma'am, I am not famous. Around here I am known as the Taxi Writer."

I bought his book at Savannah's E. Shaver fine books a few hours after our chance encounter.  The two store clerks offered stories about this author that painted a picture of a kind and generous man. The author's bio on the back of the book says he is the great-grandson of former slaves on one side of his family and Portuguese slave traders on the other. 

"The world needs to hear what we have to say.  We need to tell our stories." is the way he ends the prologue.  I suspect the book will be great if it is anything at all like the author.

[Note:  You can buy his books from Amazon and from the bookstore above.]

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Do Not Feed the Alligators!

Sign at Marriott Riverfront,    Photo,(c) Jackie Smith
Hey y'all, thought I was kiddin' in the last post, didn't you? 
Well it's no joke. 
They don't want you feeding the alligators. (Just for the record, we haven't seen any alligators) and we've spent a good deal of time looking at the river or crossing it.  This sign, by the way, is posted at our Marriott Riverfront Hotel.  I've been shuttling across the river each day to the Savannah Convention Center (the Westin, adjacent to the Center, is in the photo below).

The Savannah River traffic from our room. Photo (C) Jackie Smith
 What we have seen is a  passing parade of freighters from around the world - we've lost count of the countries they represent but within a few minutes yesterday we had a Greek ship leave and an Italian one arrive.  Depending on who we've talked to, this is either the 3rd, 4th or 10th largest port in the United States. Whatever it's size, these mammoth sea creatures gliding by prompts squeals from kids and send adults sccurrying for cameras.

Tomorrow we give up this view for a taste of history; we are moving to the Planters Inn, on Reynolds Square in the heart of this charming city. We will be across the street from The Olde Pink House, restaurant and tavern, where many swear the ghosts roam freely. Will let y'all know if any make their way to the hotel. . .

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Hey, Y'all - from Savannah

Okay so first I'll do some name droppin': 
--Paula Deen (she's the cook y'all see on the Food Network who cooks with a pound a butter and a lot a Southern influence).  Her restaurant The Lady and Sons is so dad gum popular in these parts among the tourists that even with reservations, there's a line outside the door.  They call her the 'First Lady of Southern Cooking' here. (But we've found even more local restaurants than hers without the fanfare which I'll tell you about later).

And then we have Johnny Mercer, the lyricist, who wrote such pieces as Moon River and Skylark and many others -- he's a hometown boy as well.

Other notables include Clarence Thomas the U.S Supreme Court Justice and then there is Juliet Gordon Low, (bet you don't know that name) but she's the founder of the Girl Scouts of America and since she spent most of her life here there are two historic places dedicated to her:  her birthplace and the Girl Scouts First Headquarters.

And then. . .there is Uga VII. . .and this guy is one of the most famous and loved residents:  He's the bulldog who is the University of Georgia's cherished mascot (there are stuffed versions of him for sale around here complete with red sweaters. 

Beyond the famous folks, there's the history (more on that later) and the beautiful squares and the southern hospitality (have you ever gone to a national conference and seen posters on the doors of businesses saying "Welcome" to your group? It is happening here.) 

Y'all (you do talk this way after about 20 minutes here) may not be able to understand this, but there is somethin' special about this place; we are talkin' down home Americana. I am ready to move here, but if that doesn't pan out, I've at least got a few days after the conference  and there's the ghost tour in a hearse, or the Historic Homes Tour or the Civil War tour. . .so y'all check back later there's a lot more a comin' from these parts.  And don't let me forget to tell y'all about not feedin' the alligators. . .

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

We went Walkin' about Midnight in . . .Savannah

/We went walkin' about midnight yesterday in Savannah. . .not through the Garden of Good and Evil but down the main drag to the Marriott Riverside conference hotel. Despite my tweets and other teasers about John Berent's book, this walk was because we arrived about then --several hours after we were scheduled to arrive -- and were looking for a place to buy a glass of wine. (Every place was closed by the way - no wine).

Let me make it clear:  after missing Alaska's flight 261 a few years ago by only three days (the flight that ended up in the Pacific Ocean killing all on board) I don't take flying lightly. It is not for the faint of heart. I consider  flying  the means to an end, as was the case yesterday:  we were flying to get to Savannah -  which we did, although somewhat later than we had planned.

 Not long after I wrote from 35,000 feet above the United States, our plane slowed (at least it didn't circle for an hour as others had) on our approach to Atlanta.  The flight attendants said to expect 'severe weather" in Atlanta, the city where we could connect to our 39-minute flight to Savannah.  Later, on the ground, we learned they'd been under a 'tornado watch'. And so we joined thousands of others in Atlanta who waited for the weather system to pass and the congestion it had caused to ease. 

We were among the lucky ones and we reached Savannah at about 11 p.m. instead of the earlier expected 8 p.m.  Others in our conference delegation had flights cancelled and didn't arrive until the early morning hours today.  Was it worth the trouble of getting here?  You betcha!  More on that tomorrow. . .

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

35,000 feet somewhere over mid-America

I will be diverted for a few days from my Greek, Black Sea and yet to be discussed, Amsterdam as we are hurtling across the United States on Alaska Air heading to Savannah, Georgia. . .that's the land of Paula Dean and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil . . .and of course, Riverwalks, Historic Districts and much more.

A conference there prompts this trip so explorations will be squeezed in among learning new things - but Joel will be researching while I sit in sessions and then we will hit that southern deck runnin'.  To come along with us, check the blog periodically as I will be posting.

I find technology fascinating, like where do my tweets go, and who are the readers of this blog and how do we do all this without wires and cords connecting us to something?  But here I am 35,000 feet, flying faster than I would care to think of  and with a computer connected to nothing solid but when I push the button the post will appear, the subscribers will receive emails and others will find it as the most recent post. 

If any of you have recommendations for places to go, see, do and eat in Savannah, please send them or make a suggestion in the comments below. 


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